Audit of mobile phone base stations - information sheet

21 June 2010

OfW80

1. Introduction

This information leaflet provides details, background and registration information about Ofcom's surveys of radio emission levels near to mobile phone base stations.

2. Ofcom

Ofcom (the Office of Communications) is the communications industry regulator, with wide-ranging responsibilities across the UK's communications markets including managing the UK civil radio spectrum.

Between 2001 and 2012 Ofcom and its predecessor, the DTI Radiocommunications Agency (RA), conducted a programme of measurements showing that emission levels around mobile phone base stations were consistently found to be only a very small fraction of the safety levels for exposure published by Public Health England (formerly the UK Health Protection Agency).

The emphasis of the program was primarily with schools and hospitals (as outlined in the Stewart Report) although we considered requests for surveys in any locations where there was unrestricted public access and concern about signal levels.

3. Health and Planning issues

The Independent Expert Group on Mobile Phones (IEGMP), also called the Stewart Group after its chairman Sir William Stewart, was established in April 1999 to examine the possible effects of mobile phones, base stations and transmitters on public health.

In May 2000 the IEGMP published a report recommending the establishment of an independent audit of base stations.  In response the Government asked the RA to implement a national measurement programme, to ensure that emissions from mobile phone base stations do not exceed the ICNIRP guideline levels.  Since 2001, we have funded and conducted more than 780 surveys.  The highest measurement recorded was 1/279th of the International Commission on Non-Ionizing Radiation Protection (ICNIRP) safety threshold. No installation tested by us has exceeded 0.005% of the specified radiation safety limit. This programme was continued by Ofcom until 2012.

Ofcom does not have statutory responsibilities for health and is therefore unable to comment on such issues. Similarly, Ofcom does not have statutory responsibilities for local planning matters relating to mobile phone base stations and masts.

Public Health England, Wellington House, 133-155 Waterloo Road, London SE1 8UG (Tel: 020 7654 8000, e-mail: enquiries@phe.gov.uk, website: https://www.gov.uk/government/organisations/public-health-england ), has a statutory duty to give advice to Government on Electro-Magnetic-Fields (EMF) and health; this includes assessing the state of scientific knowledge and publishing guidelines for the safe exposure to EMF.

4. The Survey

Although the ongoing programme of measurements has now finished, Ofcom remains able to survey sites if requested to do so, subject to resource availability.

The surveys are a chargeable service.  However, we recognise that there is still a general level of concern around emissions from mobile telephone masts, particularly near buildings such as schools and hospitals, about the perceived effect that they might have on the health of the public in their communities.  For this reason, assessments for schools and hospitals may be conducted on a charge free basis (subject to conditions, see below).

Please note though that Ofcom's remit is only the measurement (not any wider interpretation) of field strengths, to ensure compliance with guidance published by the International Commission on Non-Ionizing Radiation Protection (ICNIRP).

Requests from Schools and Hospitals

Subject to resource availability, a Standard Survey (see next section below) may be provided free of charge in response to direct requests from schools and hospitals, where a radio mast is not installed on their site.

If a mast is installed on their site and they are receiving funding for it from a mobile network operator, the Standard Survey charge will apply.

Requests from Other Organisations/Individuals

We can offer two levels of survey:

Standard Survey

  • Measurements will be taken from three locations around the mast.
  • Subject to operational constraints, we expect to report back to you within 3 months of the application being accepted.
  • You will receive an 'ICNIRP Measurement' certificate at the completion of the work (See example here PDF, 419.0 KB ).
  • The cost of the Standard Survey is 425.20 (ex. VAT).

Enterprise Survey

For those seeking a more comprehensive survey may request an Enterprise survey.

  • Measurements will be taken at 10-15 locations around the radio mast.
  • Subject to operational constraints we expect to carry out the measurements and provide a report to you within one month of the application being accepted.
  • You will receive a report of the measurements taken (Example here PDF, 188.7 KB ).
  • The cost of the Enterprise Survey is 1103.20 (ex. VAT).

To request a survey please apply in writing to the address below giving your contact details, the site location (including postcode) and the type of survey requested.

5. Survey Results

Anonymised survey results will, at our discretion, be made available on Ofcom’s website.  Customers, other than schools and hospitals, may request for results to be withheld from publication.  However please note that Ofcom must satisfy its legal obligations under Freedom of Information legislation and, if information is specifically requested, we may be required to disclose or publish any survey result.

All published results to date can be found here.

6. Further information

Background information about mobile phones and other business communications technologies is available on Ofcom’s website www.ofcom.org.uk.

If the website does not provide an answer to your enquiry, please contact:

Ofcom 
Riverside House
2a Southwark Bridge Road
London
SE1 9HA
Tel: 0300 123 3333
Fax: 0300 123 0811
Email: contact@ofcom.org.uk